A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act can use classified information at trial, the latest setback for prosecutors in the closely watched case.
The decision by the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit allows the former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to introduce evidence from two classified government documents at their trial, scheduled for April 21. Attorneys for the lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, consider the information crucial to the defense.
Rosen and Weissman are charged with conspiring to obtain classified information and pass it to journalists and the Israeli government.
In its ruling, a three-judge panel also declined to overturn a key 2006 decision by the trial judge. That ruling said the government must show that the two men "had bad faith purposes" in disclosing the information and that they knew it could damage the United States, a high bar for prosecutors, because criminal intent can be difficult to prove.